The Catalpa

By John Ciardi 1916–1986 John Ciardi
The catalpa’s white week is ending there   
in its corner of my yard. It has its arms full   
of its own flowering now, but the least air   
spills off a petal and a breeze lets fall
whole coronations. There is not much more   
of what this is. Is every gladness quick?   
That tree’s a nuisance, really. Long before   
the summer’s out, its beans, long as a stick,   
will start to shed. And every year one limb   
cracks without falling off and hangs there dead   
till I get up and risk my neck to trim   
what it knows how to lose but not to shed.   
I keep it only for this one white pass.   
The end of June’s its garden; July, its Fall;   
all else, the world remembering what it was   
in the seven days of its visible miracle.

What should I keep if averages were all?

John Ciardi, “The Catalpa” from This Strangest Everything (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1966). Used with the permission of the Ciardi Family Publishing Trust.

Source: The Collected Poems of John Ciardi (University of Arkansas Press, 1997)

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Poet John Ciardi 1916–1986

Subjects Activities, Nature, Trees & Flowers, Gardening

 John  Ciardi


To millions of Americans, the late John Ciardi was "Mr. Poet, the one who has written, talked, taught, edited, translated, anthologized, criticized, and propelled poetry into a popular, lively art," according to Peter Comer of the Chicago Tribune. Although recognized primarily as a poet and critic, Ciardi's literary endeavors encompassed a vast range of material. From juvenile nonsense poetry to scholarly verse translations, . . .

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SUBJECT Activities, Nature, Trees & Flowers, Gardening

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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